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Happy Feet - Elijah Wood interview

Happy Feet

Compiled by Jack Foley

ELIJAH Wood talks about voicing a tap-dancing penguin in Happy Feet and why penguins have become so popular in recent cinema.

Q: How did you get the role of Mumble and why did you decide to take it?
Elijah Wood: I read the script and liked it. But with an animated film you can only imagine what it’s going to be like, so I met with George Miller, who directed it, because I was a fan of his work. But then seeing what his perspective of the film was – his idea of animating in a realistic style and incorporating a lot of music, as well as his belief and enthusiasm for the project, his love of the story and understanding of the key elements of the film, like the importance of a Heartsong. That’s what convinced me.

Q: Can you describe the role that Heartsongs play in penguin culture?
Elijah Wood: The Heartsong is actually kind of a real thing. It comes from the idea that Emperor penguins in the wild recognize their mates by their voice. This way they can recognize them vocally and be able to pick them out in a crowd of thousands of penguins, which plays a major role in their society.

Q: What is Mumble born with instead of a Heartsong, and how does that colour his life?
Elijah Wood: In the film, every penguin has his own song except mine. Mumble is born without the ability to sing and does not have a Heartsong, but he has an incredible ability to dance. A large part of the film deals with his identity in reference to the other penguins and his individuality.

Q: Do you think there is an equivalent to a Heartsong in humans?
Elijah Wood: I think that our individual personalities are sort of like Heartsongs. We have our own ways of communicating and connecting with each other. In the film, there is a great scene where Mumble attempts to fake his singing, as one of the penguins he befriends stands behind him and sings for him. That’s actually something that happens in society as well, when we put on a different kind of personality to impress others, which ultimately most often doesn’t work. There are certainly things we can relate from this film to humans and to our own society.

Q: It seems that lately penguins have become very popular in movies. Why is that?
Elijah Wood: We started recording the voices a little over three years ago, and then March of the Penguins came out and suddenly there was a newfound love for these animals. I remember coming in to record, talking to the director and the producers about it, and we were all excited. Penguins are cute but they also have something kind of human about them, like their social structure or their sense of love. I think they are really adorable and it’s probably that simple.

Q: What are your next projects?
Elijah Wood: Bobby is coming out in November. It’s about the day at the Ambassador Hotel that Robert Kennedy was shot. It follows various people’s lives on that day leading up to him being killed and the impact that it ultimately has on them and on America. I also finished a movie earlier this year called Day Zero, about three friends that are all drafted on the same day, which follows them for 30 days until they are meant to serve.

Q: Would you work in animation again?
Elijah Wood: I have actually just finished another one. It’s a movie produced by Tim Burton called 9: a fascinating story about a post-apocalyptic world that should be coming out in 2008. I’ve just recorded the voice for it.

Read our interview with Robin Williams